Horror is Connected with Blood, Brutality, and a Haunted Past – Riksundar Banerjee

We got a chance to have a candid conversation with the author of ‘Haunted Places of India,’ Riksundar Banerjee.

Haunted Places of India by Riksundar Banerjee uncovers chilling tales from diverse locations across the country. From the abandoned village of Kuldhara to the infamous Khooni Nala, these sites have witnessed tragic events and are rumored to be haunted by malevolent spirits. Through extensive research, the author delves into the truth behind these spine-tingling stories, revealing India’s ghostly side.

What inspired you to explore the haunted places of India and write a book about them?

Haunted is a term that is linked mostly with horror. Horror rather than fear is a basic emotion of the human mind. Everybody’s fear is unique and they react differently in each situation. When I started researching the genre of horror, I found that haunted places or the horror associated with haunted places stand as a collective emotion. The stories of these places somewhere are orally narrated, found mishaps in some places, some are rumors. The incidents or myths are deep reflections of society. There is a basic difference between horror when an individual commits suicide in a mansion and a mass death of labor in mines. So haunted places attracted me to explore more social truths and the class characters in the mirror of horror.

Could you share one particularly chilling or memorable experience you had while visiting one of these haunted locations?

Frankly speaking, I don’t believe in ghosts but I do believe in ghostliness. I enjoy the echo of voidness. The empty silent classroom or laboratories, historical places with the shadow of bloodbaths, and the old constructions at night all have silent languages. I felt that eeriness. Somebody was there and nobody is there – this gap of non-existence is something I tried to find. So I had a different experience of eeriness related to sound and vision while traveling to these places.

How did you go about collecting the legends, facts, and oral tales from various sources? Did you encounter any challenges during the research process?

I selected the places in this book that have a socio/political angle. There are some historical places that witnessed conspiracies, blood baths, and untrustworthiness. Some places carry the darker sides of the human mind. crimes and tortures took place there. Some places are the representation of neo-urban society. For collecting facts or legends I worked on the local tales, interviewed local people, and talked with some journalists and police personnel.

The most challenging part was writing the facts which I heard from different sources. The incidents I wrote about are neither experienced by me nor I believe everything. But the places have their own language of horror. So creating the ambiance was the most challenging part for me.

Can you describe a haunted place in India that stands out to you as particularly intriguing or unique in its history and ghostly stories?

There are more than one places that are intriguing and have a historical background. National Library, Farrukhnagar Fort, and Shaniwar Wada Fort are the places. Hastings House in Kolkata and Bhangad Fort in Rajasthan are not listed in this book but are rich in history. I found tunnel no. 33 in Shimla is a very interesting one because the establishment of the Railway path, British rule, and the saddened history of Coronel Borong made this place haunted.

Haunted Places Of India by Riksundar Banerjee Book Cover

In your book, you mention the darker aspects of human nature often associated with tragic historical events. Could you provide an example of a location where these aspects are prominent, and how it has shaped the haunting legends?

Horror is connected with blood, brutality, and a haunted past. There are different color shades in the human mind. Some places had a history of human cruelty. Some murders and tortures took place there and made those places haunted. But I found the severity of cruelty or the darker side associated with haunted places is Meghalaya’s Noh Ka Likai false’s backstory. This incident was a real one and its effect haunts me most. A father brutally killed his child and cooked the corpse. This was insane.

The book covers different types of haunted places across various regions in India. Which type of location fascinated you the most during your exploration, and why?

Yes, the forty places in this book are from different parts of the country. Some are from the rural belt, and some are from urban India. Some places are lonely mansions and houses and some places are like cinema halls and industrial belts. So working over so many different types of places I found the haunting stories of educational institutions most interesting. The campuses or hostels are lively places throughout the day. The sounds and cacophonies come down with the time after the classes. The tales related to educational campuses have a continuous journey year after year through new batches. I enjoyed writing about these places because the horror among youth or students is most impactful due to their conflict with prejudices.

The writing style of your book is engaging and immersive, transporting readers to these haunted places. How did you approach creating the eerie atmosphere and vivid descriptions that keep readers on edge?

Personally, I believe there is no ghost but ghostliness is there. Writing horror is the art of building the plot. The illusions, the subtle hints, and the delicate touches which rise at a gradual pace are the key factors of horror writing. I just tried to narrate the stories step by step gradually revealing the main incidents. Another interesting part of this book is the geographical situation of the places. We can read this one as a travelogue as well. One who is interested in exploring new places can pick up any spot from this book. So readers are also getting the flavor of traveling from this book.

Some readers might question the lack of historical or factual evidence in the book, relying more on popular myths and legends. How would you respond to those who seek more academic rigor in exploring haunted places?

I did my Ph.D. research based on the uncanny in literature: evolutions and transformations. This book is a kind of fiction based on local stories, myths, and conventional facts. I tried to explore the haunted places’ socio-economic nature and compiled the places from different statuses. I believe each and every ‘facts and evidence’ of paranormal activities are some kind of tale. Rather than giving this book a hardcore academic flavor I wanted to keep the flavor of storytelling.

Riksundar Banerjee
Riksundar Banerjee

What would you say is the cultural significance of haunted places in India, and how does your book contribute to understanding this aspect?

Like every other culture, the horror culture of India is diverse and represents the deep truths of the society. Different types of ghosts divided by class, and gender tell the oppression of humanity. Basically, in many cases, ghosts or haunted places tell something which is not morally justified. I covered the places in this book that tell us about different types of horror, different shades of human minds, and different types of oppression of women. These places are from different parts of the country and the hauntings are unique as well.

For armchair travelers who want to experience the thrill of visiting haunted places without leaving their homes, how does your book provide a fulfilling and immersive experience?

The readers will answer it well. I not only wrote about the haunting incidents but described the places as well. So readers will et the flavor of exploring these geographical locations as well.

Looking back on your journey researching and writing about haunted places, what was the most surprising or unexpected discovery you made that you hadn’t anticipated when you first started?

The first chapter of this book was a surprise for me. I was aware of Hastings House and planning to incorporate that in this book. But at the time of research, I came to know about the traffic sergeant’s incident. I traveled that road many a time before but after hearing about the incident became curious and tried to find out if there is any sergeant asking for help at night.

The interview was first published in Storizen Magazine May 2023 Issue.